Just because your business is small doesn’t mean it goes unnoticed. Customers find you, employees work for you, vendors supply you, and money makes its way into your wallet.
The longer your business is around, the more threats it will attract. This can include things like thieves, lawsuits, hackers and more. There are many dishonest people looking for a payday, and vulnerable businesses are their targets. So, before you find yourself as their next victim, here are some protections your small business or startup needs.
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Thieves and Copycats: Protect Your Small Business or Startup Ideas
In a very basic sense, your business is an idea. That idea might be providing a product that solves a problem or providing a solution that is less expensive than competitors. Everything in your business revolves around making that idea happen and become profitable.
There are people though that don’t want to come up with their own ideas, and steal the work of others. They take other people’s ideas and try to sell their product or service, stealing their money and business from them. This could be in the form of copying your business as a whole, replicating your product without changing anything, or taking an idea you’ve shared with them and making it their own product.
The biggest protections you can implement for your products is to file a patent or make sure your creative works are copyrighted. Legal protection is often the best you can have, since if somebody steals your work, you have the law on your side. That includes things like: cease and desist letters, DMCA takedowns, and taking the thief to court over damages to your business.
There isn’t always protection though. If a company takes the idea behind your product and make some changes to it, it’s legal for them to sell it. Additionally, if you tell somebody an idea, not a product or physical work, and they take it for their own business, there is no legal protection for that. The best protection in these situations is to keep your ideas to yourself, especially if your idea is going to be extremely disruptive in your industry.
Lawsuits: Protect Your Small Business Against Legal Threats
In the world of business, lawsuits are a fairly common occurrence. Companies violate patents, employees are wrongfully terminated, people are injured on company property, and lawsuits come from every other angle. If you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself, you leave yourself open to a lawsuit.
First, make sure all of your work your company does, content on your website, and such aren’t copying or plagiarizing the work of others. Make sure you own the rights to all images used on your marketing and advertising efforts, both online and not.
Next, train your employees in best practices for your business across the board. That includes safety protocols, avoiding plagiarism, working the right amount of hours, and keeping themselves healthy at work.
As the owner, there are steps you can take also to stay safe. Make sure all contracts you sign and give out are legally sound and safe. If you are unsure, it’s a good idea to have a trained lawyer look it over to make sure it’s safe. Have proper insurance for your business, in order to protect yourself and the company if something goes wrong. Make sure all conditions are up to government safety standards: for example, if you sell food, that it has been approved by the FDA.
Cybersecurity: Protect Your Small Business Data
The data your business gathers is extremely valuable. You collect information like the names, addresses, phone number, emails, payment information, and more when interacting with your customers. People, especially criminals, are wanting that information for nefarious purposes.
It’s your responsibility to keep your customer’s data safe, along with data your business has generated on it’s own. No company is safe, as major companies like Equifax and Yahoo can show from their major data breaches. Don’t think you are too small for notice either, because if a criminal sees a vulnerable target, regardless of size, they will go for it.
The best solution is utilizing high quality security software. This includes things like firewalls, antivirus, malware protection, and secure WiFi networks. Keep this software up to date and always get the newest version when it comes out. It might even be worth your time to hire a security company to make sure all of your devices are clean of malware and have the right protection for your needs.
The other side of keeping your company safe is training your employees. Teach them how to recognize malware, create strong passwords, establish extra authentication protocols in case they forget their password, not opening suspicious emails, and more. Whoever handles your company’s money needs to be doubly trained and understand best practices for digital banking and finances.
Fraud: Protect Your Business Credit
Your business has it’s own credit eligibility separate from your personal credit. It has it’s own credit report, credit score, and you can get things like loans and company credit cards. Protecting your company’s credit and identity needs to be a priority, especially if you need flexibility in your finances.
That also means though that your business is vulnerable to things like fraud and identity theft. If you have company credit cards, it’s possible to fall victim to fraud. This could happen either by your card being stolen physically or the credit card information from the card being used without permission.
Somebody at the company needs to go through each credit card bill and make sure every purchase was made for work and not because somebody has stolen a company card. It’s also good to limit who has access to a company credit card and make sure there is a way to track purchases made on it.
It’s also possible for somebody to steal your company’s identity and ruin your business’ credit score. They could take out credit cards, loans, and more under the name of your business, making it harder for you to be fluid in your finances. Make sure to keep a close eye on your company’s credit score and regularly get credit reports. That way, you can quickly spot any suspicious activity that could indicate identity theft.
You have worked hard for your success, but there are people out there who aren’t interested in doing the same. They want a shortcut to making money, and they will take them at your business’ expense. Do whatever you can to protect your small business or startup from those looking for shortcuts. Guard your ideas and utilize copyrights/patents, try to prevent lawsuits, install strong security software and monitor your credit.
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